Sunil Rajasekar of Mindbody: “Learn something new every day”

Learn something new every day. You’ll find yourself more knowledgeable and understanding of your surroundings and ultimately it will apply to your everyday life, in addition to your approach to your work. Challenge yourself regularly. Make sure you do not become complacent. When you challenge yourself, you grow. Invest in yourself daily. Like building blocks, you’ll bolster […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Learn something new every day. You’ll find yourself more knowledgeable and understanding of your surroundings and ultimately it will apply to your everyday life, in addition to your approach to your work.

Challenge yourself regularly. Make sure you do not become complacent. When you challenge yourself, you grow.

Invest in yourself daily. Like building blocks, you’ll bolster your ability to perform at the highest peak of your ability day in and day out.

As part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sunil. He has served as Mindbody’s Chief Technology Officer since November 2018 and as the company’s President since August 2020. With more than 20 years of consumer and enterprise experience, his work is focused on Mindbody’s product and technology strategy, consumer marketplace expansion and platform development. Previously, Sunil served as Vice President and general manager at e-commerce giant eBay, leading engineering and product management for the seller experience. He has also served as Chief Technology Officer for Lithium Technologies and as Vice President of engineering, product management and operations at Intuit. He holds an MBA from the University of Toledo.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in India — and as you may know, cricket is enormously popular there. Like a lot of kids, I always thought I was going to be a professional cricket player. That was the dream. But along the way, I began to realize that while cricket was an extremely fun hobby, it likely wasn’t going to be a great career, at least at the time. My other passion growing up was computers, even as a young child. As I grew older, I started to find my way in the world of technology and my journey has led me to Mindbody.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

Growing up, I was always interested in video games and, by extension, computers. But I wanted to go deeper than just playing video games. I wanted to make my own. So, I learned how to code, and I built a variety of games.

Still, I wasn’t quite sure whether computers were going to be my career. But after completing my MBA at the University of Toledo, I received two job offers. The first was as a management trainee in a finance company. The other was as a programmer. Naively, I chose the programming job because it paid slightly more. In hindsight, it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I was truly able to see my childhood passion turn into a career. And it was that decision that would later lead me to live a life based on some basic principles.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

I have certainly had a lot of mentors along the way, all of whom have taught me so much. But if I had to choose one mentor, I would have to go with my father. He taught me some of the most important lessons in my life and encouraged me to become who I am today and to live the way I do today. I would say he had the most influence on me. He taught me the importance of relationships, he taught me to always focus on learning. If you’re not learning, you’re not moving forward.

Very early on he instilled in me the idea that you shouldn’t be doing the same thing for more than two years and that you stop learning after the first two years. Make sure you are taking on new responsibilities and learning new skills. That is not to say you need to leave your company every two years. But you should always challenge yourself. Seek out new opportunities, new roles and new ways to learn. Those opportunities, both big and small, are always there. You just need to be willing and able to take advantage of them.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

In hindsight, I don’t know how funny it is, but there was definitely an experience I learned from and grew from that I can recall. In a past position, I was given a leadership role to re-architect our entire technology platform. It was a big project and I volunteered — not really knowing what I was getting myself into. There was a lot of intense focus on this project … and in the end, it was a spectacular failure. I truly thought that I would be fired, but I wasn’t.

Anyway, it was not only one mistake, but a few.

Mistake #1 was how the project was set up. We took a team and literally moved to a new building, which created a lot of separation and created a weird dynamic culturally within the company. There was jealousy and almost a feeling of unfairness that this particular group had the opportunity to work on a flashy project while the rest continued with day-to-day work. That didn’t pan out great for overall culture, team dynamic, and satisfaction.

Mistake #2 was the way the plan was set up. We were going to come up with the best, most modern platform ever built, but it was going to take a couple of years. In any business, they want to see incremental value along the way. Through forecasting and along the way, we didn’t show value properly. This created frustrations, internal pressure and miscommunications.

Finally, mistake #3 was that we weren’t working very closely with the rest of the business. It quickly became this technology-led grand vision, which just wasn’t in sync with what the overall business charge was. When there were delays or setbacks, the business lost interest, and the project was ultimately canned.

Looking back, there’s good news. I have never made those three mistakes since then!

I’ve worked on similar projects recently and took valuable lessons learned from that experience. The years since then haven’t been mistake-free, but those particular issues haven’t raised their heads. Again, it’s all about learning, constantly learning.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

Sales departments always start with “Always be selling.” To me, the key in any industry is to always be learning. Especially now, when things are moving so fast. Virtually every week, there are new trends, new technologies, new business models. The key to success is to always be learning. You may finish college and think the learning is through and that it is now simply just work. That’s just wrong. The most successful people are those who can adapt. The essential thing to learn is “how to learn” right. How do you learn?

How do you stay abreast of what is happening? Are you investing enough time? Are you being deliberate about what you want to learn and who you want to learn from? You must ask yourself, are you reading? Are you reaching out to mentors? Are you listening to colleagues and competitors? Are you following key publications? Are you challenging yourself?

To always be learning is to always keep investing in yourself.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

We recently started a book club for all the managers at Mindbody and The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz was the first book I chose. It’s a great read that you can apply to pretty much your whole life — career, family, everything. The reason this had a big impact on me is the overarching idea that everything starts with mindset. I know a lot of different sayings that make the same point as this: Life is one percent what happens to you and 99 percent how you react to it.

Another way I like to think about mindset that is worth sharing — especially with my background in the technology industry: Think of mindset as hardware and that all the actions you take are the software. Software can only work as well as the hardware will allow it. You can work really hard and you can sleep only two hours a night and always be working. But, unless your mindset is where it needs to be, your actions aren’t going to result in the outcomes that you’re hoping for. Just like your hardware on any device, it’s harder to upgrade your mindset. It’s easier to get new programs (i.e., do new actions). But you need to really focus on your mindset, as that determines everything. Schwartz’s book brings that idea into focus, and I recommend it to anyone looking to improve and enhance their mindset.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“The person who believes they can, and the person who believes they cannot are both right.”

This is also related to mindset, which is why it resonates so strongly with me. Your personal attitude determines everything, in my opinion.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Lucky for me, I find all aspects of what we do at Mindbody exciting because our mission is to help people lead happier, healthier lives. Our goal is to democratize wellness; we want to see everyone focusing on their wellness. So, to me, all the projects we’re currently working on are exciting and I am extremely passionate about — because ultimately, they promote a positive outcome.

Not everyone has the same access to wellness and for many, it is hard to allocate time and build a meaningful routine. We want to make sure it’s available for everyone whether you’re affluent or you’re not. And that’s what we’re focused on as a company.

A few things taking place at Mindbody include:

  • The continued development of our Virtual Wellness Platform to support the long-term adoption of virtual wellness. This platform allows the wellness businesses to offer integrated, hybrid memberships (inclusive of both in-studio and virtual offerings) that live in one place and consumers to have access to tens of thousands of businesses at-home.
  • We’re also extremely focused on our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion efforts. There are a number of things our teams are focused on that excite me, but overall, each area is ultimately to support making wellness more accessible and ensuring wellness is inclusive. A few key areas of focus include amplifying black voices, supporting impactful organizations, diversifying our Mindbody team, focusing on education, activating our own team members and spotlighting diverse stories, to name a few.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

Why are habits important? To me, habits reduce friction. If you are rethinking everyday whether you are going to work out or not, chances are you aren’t going to do it. The cognitive overload is going to be too much if you’re remaking that decision every single day.

Habits are important because you operate on autopilot. There may be a lot of things you want to do, but you haven’t made it into a habit. Early on in my career, I burnt out. I was working too many hours and going out socializing every day with friends. That is when I realized that I needed a more balanced approach to life. That meant working out, meditating, working on my mindset and attitude. Every morning I work out, meditate and that helps me get the day started the right way. I’ve been doing this for 20+ years and it has had a profound impact on me. The key to my success was making wellness a habit.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

Start small and then go from there. If you are just starting a workout routine, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Start small…start with five minutes every day if that’s what you are comfortable doing. But make it a habit and put in your calendar to start your day and take it from there. Win your morning, win your day. Win your day, win your month. Win your month and win your year. Keep doing that and you’re going to have a successful life.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

When it comes to developing good habits, you just have to do it. Put it in your calendar. Your calendar is your friend. Once you make the commitment and you start doing it, it becomes easier. Soon enough, you’ll have introduced a positive habit.

After a while, you’ll start seeing the benefits and you won’t want to stop. Then, you will always find the time. The key is to put it in your calendar and hold yourself accountable. You get to a place when it is part of your day and you feel bad when you don’t do it.

When it comes to bad habits, the most important thing is to remove distractions. If one of your bad habits is eating poorly and you want to eat healthy, throw away all the junk food in your house. Don’t fall into a sunk cost mindset; don’t think that because you already bought that junk food, you have to eat it. That never works. The next time you are at the store you’ll buy another one. It’s best to remove it from your life entirely.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.

Start your day early. Carve out “you” time to ensure you invest in yourself. This will lead to a productive and positive day. My alone time, without disruptions is at the very start of the day. I spend the hours from approximately 5–7 a.m. focusing on me with things like meditation and working out physically.

Keep a consistent mediation practice. I meditate first thing in the morning, every single day. I have about a 20-minute routine — inclusive of breathing and gratitude exercises. I spend time thinking about the blessings I’ve been given and try to express gratitude to the universe. There’s also a practice called “loving kindness” where I express love for myself and express love and gratitude to other people. It’s a time to take negative energy and set it aside. I also often do Transcendental meditation. If 20-minutes is too much, start with five — you’ll be thankful for the results.

Move every day. I try to work out between 30 to 45 minutes a day. It makes such a difference. I often opt to go for a run or a hike. When I am engaging in physical movement, I am also listening to podcasts — which goes back to my philosophy of “always be learning.”

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Schedule wellness like you would meetings! Wellness is imperative and will exceptionally elevate all areas of your life, most importantly your mindset.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

Learn something new every day. You’ll find yourself more knowledgeable and understanding of your surroundings and ultimately it will apply to your everyday life, in addition to your approach to your work.

Challenge yourself regularly. Make sure you do not become complacent. When you challenge yourself, you grow.

Invest in yourself daily. Like building blocks, you’ll bolster your ability to perform at the highest peak of your ability day in and day out.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Read, read, read. This supports my philosophy on “always be learning.”

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

Plan ahead. I start every day by writing down what my priorities are for the day and what I want to accomplish that day. I also journal regularly which helps me introspect and course correct both personally and professionally.

Hold yourself accountable. Using your calendar, ensure you allot time for all areas of your life — work, wellness and personal.

Develop annual, monthly and weekly goals. The results? You’ll find yourself determined to achieve those goals and it will encourage focus on the things that matter (whether it be a big project with work or your physical shape).

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Write your goals down. At the top of the year, I develop personal and professional goals. I then create monthly and weekly goals to stay on track to achieve those long-term goals.

To-do lists do work!

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

If you have a dialed routine that contributes to improving your overall self, it will naturally result in a Flow state. Of course, life is messy, and things come up, but with a solid and positive mindset, you’ll be able to tackle distractions and challenges with grace. During the day, I try to create contiguous time, as much as possible. Therefore, if I have five meetings, I try to keep continuous time so I can get into that flow state. It can take a while to get into, but if you make the effort to plan ahead, it will support getting into that state more routinely.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I want to see everyone in the world focused on improving their personal wellness. That means physical, mental, social wellness — all dimensions of wellness. It means getting into their routines and every day finding the time to invest in themselves. I believe wellness is the key to a successful future, both individually and as a society. Once we have collective wellness, great things will follow.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I am a big fan of Tim Ferriss who is a world class “learner” and would love to spend time with him to compare notes.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Twitter: @srajase

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


Sunil Prashara of Project Management Institute (PMI): “Be clear on priorities”

by Charlie Katz

“Tipping point” With Candice Georgiadis & Natasha Cornstein

by Candice Georgiadis
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.